There’s a certain religious sensibility to Emotion: Side B, Carly Rae Jepsen’s latest end-of-summer release. Last year’s Emotion proved that Jepsen has successfully transformed herself into far more than the Canadian Idol-raised one-hit-wonder that her Call Me Maybe success suggested, and what’s more, that she’s indeed one of the best songwriters working in a contemporary pop mold. For those still left unconvinced of her prestige beyond her saccharine, teen-idol facade, Side B arrives like pop evangelism, with enough scope, detail, and 80’s influence to convert even the most intransigent of Top 40 naysayers.
Strip away the infectious quirks and bubbly aura that informs Jepsen’s pop persona and what’s left on Side B is a pulsing, euphoric sonic template that sounds suited for display across the backdrop of a modern day mega church. Many moments throughout the EP are pure pop religion, such as the second track, Higher. The lyrics paint a spiritual picture of romantic love as a near-transcendental experience: “You take me higher than the rest/Oh everybody else is second best.” Or there’s the track Fever with a chorus that expresses Jepsen’s feelings of romantic love as a force that has taken over her body and soul: “You wanna break my heart, alright/I’ve caught your fever I’ll be feeling it forever.” It shows Jepsen’s keen understanding of amplified emotions expressed through melody; with both songs everything feels heightened, explosive, like one would feel if experiencing the actual sentiments her songs communicate. Higher in particular is such a height for Jepsen that at first it seems a mystery that the track missed the cut on Emotion. But placed on the album alongside a track like Run Away With Me, Jepsen’s most electric and adrenaline-fuelled song to date, it then make sense that the former track is relegated to B-side status as it would run the risk of competing for the spotlight against Emotion’s highest peak.
Lyrically, on Side B Jepsen shows how concise and direct she’s become at expressing a pop sentiment. The melodies are bold and forceful, but she loses nothing of the intricate, emotionally-overloaded narratives that make her into a true pop songwriter. Jepsen proves there’s no need to sacrifice her fine sense of pop lyricism to pull off a melodic punch, as seen most directly on the track Store, a break up song about waking up wishing you were next to someone else and deferring to tell the s/o that you’re leaving them by saying, “I’m just going to the store!”. In an age when relationships are commonly born from social media apps and your next date can be as easy as a swipe on a screen, it’s among one of the more honest breakup songs heard in awhile.
Side B comes at the end of the summer, almost exactly a year after the release of Emotion, and it seems curious that the pop power of both releases wouldn’t secure an earlier release date in order to land a spot on the airwaves during the heat of the summer. But it just might be that Jepsen’s two time late summer arrival is a strategic move, one that gives her distance from her public image as the creator of the Summer Single and moves her towards being a (capital A) Artist for all seasons. In her makeover into the pop star that she envisions herself as, Side B finds Jepsen more firmly in control, commanding a force so seductive it feels certain to leave all those who listen converted.
Words: Andrew Ward